I tried to write a parody of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas to lead this off. It was a woeful and abject failure because I’m bad at rhyming.
So instead, I’m gonna ask you to take a knee.
We’ve been through a lot this season together, folks. The ups and downs, the shocks, the disappointments. And this bowl season is the result.
Everywhere you look, the wreckage of a really bizarre season lies around us. Alabama’s playing Kansas State! There are two Big Ten teams in the Playoff! Cincinnati’s facing an ACC team in a baseball stadium! Insane! Awesome! And above all, fun!
You may think the best bowl games usually happen after Christmas. And you’d (mostly) be right. But when I went through the pre-Christmas schedule, I was really impressed at all the great competition we’ll see. And luckily, none of these games overlap, so there’s no Big Screen/Small Screen rigamarole.
Wackiness is an essential ingredient in the brew that is this awesome sport, and this time, the football gods granted us a double portion. As the holidays approach, take time to sit back, relax, give thanks for college football, and check out the games below.
UTSA at Troy
Every year, I play Bowl Pick’em with my family. (This year, the Solid Fiancée makes her debut!) I always come up with two entries for our bowl confidence pool: one where I pick the games based on my gut, and the other where I use a semi-complicated formula of my own making that tells me how close the game should be. And folks, my Bowl Picking Formula (patent pending) tells me this one’s the closest matchup this postseason. Both of these teams are ranked, both are conference champs, and both have elite units. The Roadrunners boast quarterback Frank Harris slinging the ball to a really strong receiving corps. They rack up yards to the tune of nearly 500 per game. While the Trojans don’t have a stellar offense, their defensive acumen is incredible. They’re stingy, and they just don’t let teams score. Keep your eye on this one.
Cincinnati at Louisville
Two Midwest teams playing in a baseball stadium in Boston? Now this is the kind of funky nonsense I live for. It’s been a disappointing season for both these squads, given the Cards’ aspirations and the Bearcats’ 2021 campaign. They’re also remarkably similar, boasting OK offenses (Cincy passes better; Louisville runs better) and stingy defenses. When teams are this closely matched, it often comes down to who wants it more. My guess? That’s Cincy, who wants to march into the Big 12 with a bowl win under its belt.
Oh, and there’s also the teensy sidenote that Louisville’s coach left for Cincinnati. I’m sure that won’t be awkward at all.
Washington State at Fresno State
Wazzu is pass-happy with a great front seven on defense. But the stats say the Cougars have more holes. The Bulldogs boast a top-25 secondary that might give Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward fits. Jake Haener also has the Fresno pass attack humming. The line’s close. Expect an emotional one.
New Mexico Bowl
SMU at BYU
The Battle Of The Acronyms, in the middle of the desert! Only in college football. Also, a warning off the top: neither of these teams play defense. Iowa fans, avert your eyes. BYU does a slightly better job on that side of the ball than SMU, but I mean slightly. The Mustangs have been all over the place this year, but usually when they can outgain opponents, they win. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai can really spin it. So this will be one of those games where it’s likely on the Cougars to put together balanced clock-eating drives that keep the ‘Stangs offense on the sideline.
Boca Raton Bowl
Liberty at Toledo
Liberty just went through a coaching change, so it’s likely things are a touch unsettled there. The Flames don’t do anything particularly well besides defend the pass. They might need their two-headed running back monster of Shedro Lewis and T.J. Green to step up, because if there’s a weakness in the Rockets’ D, it’s up front. For their part, Toledo has to stop Liberty from scoring and take advantage when opportunity strikes, because Liberty’s pretty good on defense too. If you’re the wagering type, I’d bet the under here.
New Orleans Bowl
Western Kentucky at South Alabama
Western Kentucky got a boost this week after standout quarterback Austin Reed withdrew his name from the transfer portal and committed to playing out his eligibility with the Hilltoppers. Reed commands the second-best passing game in the nation, which racks up yards like no one’s business. Defense is a bit mid, though. Meanwhile, here comes South Alabama, my best friend’s alma mater. The Jaguars have shown up all season with balanced if not special offensive aplomb and a solid defense with monsters in the trenches. Expect plenty of pressure on Western Kentucky’s pass attempts. It’s a party atmosphere in NOLA, and this unpredictable game should have plenty of fireworks.
Wake Forest at Missouri
Poor Wake Forest. Last year the Demon Deacons contended for the ACC title, but things didn’t go their way this season thanks to some tough close losses down the stretch. Quarterback Sam Hartman is still a reliable hand under center and distributes the pigskin well. The offense lives and dies by the pass, and the team relies on outscoring its opponents to stay in games.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have a formidable and even-keeled defense that should challenge that strategy, though a lot of defensive depth is headed for the transfer portal. Keep an eye on that. It’s been a disappointing year for Mizzou too, as it’s been handed close defeats too. The Tigers’ weakness is certainly their offense, as quarterback Brady Cook does everything he can to push the team down the field with his arm and legs. Expect a close one between these squads.